The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a 1960 musical with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson and book by Richard Morris. The plot is a fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown, who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and her wealthy miner-husband. A film version also titled The Unsinkable Molly Brown, with screenplay by Helen Deutsch, was released in 1964.


The original Broadway production opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on November 3, 1960 and closed on February 10, 1962 after 532 performances and 1 preview. It was directed by Dore Schary and choreographed by Peter Gennaro. The opening cast included Tammy Grimes, Harve Presnell, and Jack Harrold. Grimes won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. Grimes appeared in the US national tour in 1962, including Los Angeles and San Francisco in April and June 1962, respectively.[1]

Presnell reprised his stage role for the 1964 film, also entitled The Unsinkable Molly Brown starring Debbie Reynolds. The two starred in a 1989-1990 national tour.[2][3]

The first West End production, with Abi Finley and Sean Pol McGreevy in the leading roles, opened in May 2009.[4]


A reading of Molly Brown, the first of the revised versions by Dick Scanlan, took place in Denver at the Denver Center Theatre Company's Colorado New Play Summit in February 2009. The show was directed by Kathleen Marshall and starred Kerry O'Malley as Molly, Marc Kudisch as James Joseph "J.J." Brown, William Parry as Horace Tabor, Linda Mugelston as Polly Pry, with Chad Callaghan, Paula Chase, Susan Derry, Kevin Earley, Ali Ewoldt, Jeremy Jordan, Kevin Ligon, Omar Lopez-Cepero, Brandi Chavone Massey, Orville Mendoza, Richard Roland, Matthew Shepard, Jennifer Smith and Kevin Worley. The story was revised "to use more elements from the real-life story" of Molly Brown.[5]

A reading of the musical was held in May 2010. The show was directed/choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, music supervision by Michael Rafter, with Sutton Foster as Molly and Craig Bierko as James Joseph "J.J." Brown. This reading had only Molly and J.J. as characters, cutting out all others that were in the previous version.[6]

In December 2011, another reading of the musical by Scanlan was staged. The creative team was the same as in May 2010, and it starred Foster and Kudisch again, Teal Wicks, Constantine Germanacos, Francis Jue, Zachary James and Donna English. The score consists of about half from the original musical and "the rest of the "new" score is made up songs from the late Willson's catalog."[7]

Opening September 12, 2014, a full production of the Dick Scanlan revisioning was produced at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, running through October 26. The production featured Beth Malone and Burke Moses . The plotline differed significantly from the original production, opening with Margaret "Molly" Brown in the Titanic rescue boat, and then flashing back to follow her life from her first visit to Leadville. The production received favorable reviews from local reviewers and a notice in the New York Times, "A New Crew Salvages Old Molly Brown."[8]


In the early 1900s, feisty tomboy Molly Tobin wrestles with her three younger brothers[9]and tells them and her father that she wants to learn to read and write and to find a rich husband ("I Ain't Down Yet"). Molly makes her way to the Saddle Rock saloon in Leadville, Colorado and applies for a job. On the way to Leadville, Colorado she meets J.J. "Leadville" Johnny Brown, who falls in love with her and promises to give her whatever she wants ("I'll Never Say No"). After they marry, Johnny sells a claim and provides Molly with the money she wants, enough to enter the high social life in Denver ("Beautiful People of Denver"). Molly and Johnny, now dressed in gaudy finery, are made fun of by the Denver society people she wants to impress, and they travel to Europe, against Johnny's better instincts.

The couple, and especially Molly, are welcomed and accepted by European royalty, but the attentions of Prince DeLong towards Molly upset Johnny and he returns to Leadville alone. Molly realizes that Johnny is her true love, and she sails for home on the RMS Titanic ("Dolce Far Niente"). As the Titanic sinks and the tragedy unfolds, Molly survives in one of the lifeboats. She finally is reunited with Johnny, who has built Molly her own "castle," a beautiful home in the Rocky Mountains.

Musical numbersEdit

Act I
  • Overture -- Orchestra
  • I Ain't Down Yet -- Molly Tobin and Her Brothers
  • Belly Up to the Bar, Boys -- Molly Tobin, Christmas Morgan and the Miners
  • I've A'ready Started In -- Johnny "Leadville" Brown, Christmas Morgan, Charlie, Burt and Gitter
  • I'll Never Say No -- Johnny "Leadville" Brown
  • My Own Brass Bed -- Molly Tobin
  • The Denver Police -- Three Policemen
  • Beautiful People of Denver -- Molly Tobin
  • Are You Sure? -- Molly Tobin, Monsignor Ryan and Guests
  • I Ain't Down Yet (Reprise)-- Molly Tobin and Johnny "Leadville" Brown

Act II
  • Happy Birthday, Mrs. J. J. Brown -- Princess DeLong, Prince DeLong and the International set
  • Bon Jour (The Language Song) -- Molly Tobin, Prince DeLong and the International set
  • If I Knew -- Johnny "Leadville" Brown
  • Chick-a-pen -- Molly Tobin and Johnny "Leadville" Brown
  • Keep-a-Hoppin' -- Johnny "Leadville" Brown and His Leadville Friends
  • Up Where the People Are -- Monte Carlo Guests
  • Dolce Far Niente -- Prince DeLong and Molly Tobin
  • Colorado, My Home -- Johnny "Leadville" Brown, Molly Tobin and Leadville Friends


  1. Zolotow, Sam. "Schary To Stage Play About Files", The New York Times, April 2, 1962, p. 26
  2. Churnin, Nancy."Stage Review Debbie Reynolds Is Unsinkable in 'Molly Brown'" Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1989
  3. Klein, Alvin."Debbie Reynolds Re-Creates 'Molly'" The New York Times, April 1, 1990
  4. Shenton, Mark."'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' review", June 1, 2009
  5. Jones, Kenneth."O'Malley Is Molly Brown in Denver Reading of Revised Musical; Kudisch Also Stars", January 30, 2009
  6. Jones, Kenneth."EXCLUSIVE: Sutton Foster and Craig Bierko to Star in Molly Brown Musical Reading", April 30, 2010
  7. Jones, Kenneth."Sutton Foster and Marc Kudisch Bang Unsinkable Molly Brown's Tub in Reading of Revised Musical", December 27, 2011
  9. "'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' Synopsis", accessed August 22, 2011

External linksEdit

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